Architecture begins where engineering ends”-Walter Gropius.

 ‘How is architecture different from engineering?’, as practicing architects and students we often find this question puzzling to answer. Well, this indeed continues to remain a debate in many fields which even sparked the confusion of whether to include architecture under the engineering department of colleges or not. Though both engineering and architecture are professional fields, they are different in terms of knowledge and practicality.  

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Architecture vs Engineering_© sdaarchitects.com/
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Ajanta Caves _© indianexpress.com

Engineering requires a lot of technical and logical assets while architecture requires creative thinking. Engineering uses the left side of the brain which is logically dominant while architecture uses both sides of the brain, i.e, a set of skills requiring both logic and creativity. Architecture is a combination of art and science. Archdaily had recently gathered different perspectives of famous architects such as Odile Decq, Peter Cook, Kjetil Thorsen from Snohetta, Yona Friedman, Ma Yansong from MAD Architects, Liam Young, Wold D Prix, and Coop Himmelb(l)au about how they defined architecture. Some of the responses sum up that architecture is a reflection of society and humanity. A few of them described architecture as an understanding of the built environment, culture, and heritage of a place.  

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Pyramids of Egypt_©travelandliesure.com
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Taj Mahal_©smithsonianmag.com

An architect has the freedom to bring a vision or a conceptual idea to life. While engineering is pure logic, architecture goes way beyond just logic. Since it’s a very subjective field, architecture has been expressed through different passages of time in the form of art. We often say that architecture is an epitome of timelessness which holds true for the various historical marvels that have survived for ages. They are a symbol of how society has evolved and the pride of one’s culture. For example, the Pyramids of Egypt symbolize the respect the Egyptian citizens had for their king and their beliefs. The Taj Mahal speaks of Emperor Shah Jahan’s love for his Queen, Mumtaz Mahal. Underground cities and abandoned cities like Derinkuyu and Mohenjodaro are a dystopian reminder of the civilizations which ceased to exist for unknown or assumed reasons. Monuments with ornamentation recount a series of mythological and historical stories through metaphorical carvings. Historical edifices have paved the way for archaeological research and theories which are a part of history textbooks.

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Derinkuyu: An Underground City_©historyhit.com
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Mohenjodaro _©pakistantourntravel.com

Architecture existed right from the start but gained identity through the earliest works of Vitruvius, ‘De architectura’ which is a treatise of architectural theories pointing out the importance of beauty and proportion. The Golden Ratio was also a concept that took shape and applied to all of the architectural marvels we see today. Through centuries our ancestors have brought beautiful meaning to architecture through social, political, emotional, and religious typologies. A church may evoke a divine aura followed by whispered prayers echoing through buttressed walls and the arched nave while a Palace imbibes fear and respect within us along with a royal waft of air around.

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The Golden Ratio_©creativebloq.com
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Urbanization_©daysym.com

While engineering purely focuses on how to logically erect a structure, architecture delves into deeper aspects that give character to the built form. Architecture dictates the form of a structure using contextual references. It forms a deeper connection between the city and society. Through years of evolution into modern movements, we’ve arrived at a point where architecture is at stake when it comes to expression. Urbanization is a leading issue that we continue to face leading to the generalization in structures of the built environment. The use of local materials somehow narrowed down our options to just glass and concrete.  

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Notre Dame Cathedral_©commons.wikimedia.org
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Humayun’s Tomb _©itinari.com

Before urbanization, a variety of materials have been used based on the availability of resources such as stone, brick, ashlar, mud, wood, bamboo, etc. This gave people the freedom to stylize structures as they pleased, now known as local or vernacular architecture. For example, the arches of Mughal architecture differ from those found in Gothic architecture. The domes found in Buddhist stupas are different from those used in Persian architecture. While some dwellings use sloped roofs, others use flat or barrel roofs. All of these elements lend a certain character to these places and more importantly, give a city its identity. 

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Sanchi Stupa_©britannica.com
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Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque_©Wikipedia.com

Architecture is the soul of any built or unbuilt space. Architectural masterpieces provide a rhythmic pattern of stories weaved together that purposefully bring the people of a diverse country together. Sometimes they exchange unspoken emotions with us through the beautiful juxtaposition of heavy masses, solids, voids, light, and shadows. Architecture cannot be quantified, it is something much deeper in terms of what we see and feel. It is more sensitive rather than purely logical and has the power to affect us emotionally and psychologically. A beautiful example of this would be the older generations who are emotionally attached to their ancestral homes which continue to dwell even today.  

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Ancestral Home in Kerala_©architecturaldigest.in
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Translucent Concrete_©nda.ac.uk
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Cross Laminated Timber_©omrania.com
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Hemp Concrete_©buildwithrise.com

Today architecture has taken a unique turn where structures are based on utility and are people-oriented. Research has helped develop a new set of building materials like cross-laminated timber, modular bamboo, translucent concrete, aluminum foam, hempcrete, etc. This paves way for more efficiency in the construction industry which has introduced innovative concepts like 3D printed architecture and performative architecture. As the world develops, architects must slowly acquire the skillsets required to produce AI-generated design. This is because human needs have always proved to increase in complexity with the future. Thus, an architect is expected to have a wider knowledge spectrum to grasp concepts that an engineer deals with as well.

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Majlis House in Dubai: 3D Printed_©worldarchitecture.org
Punjab Kesari Headquarters _©archdaily.com

If an engineer solely builds a structure, it would pan out to be monotonous and mundane. If an architect solely works on designing the building, the structural framework may fail due to incorrect details. But if both engineers and architects collaborate to design, the outcome would strike a balance between the aesthetics and structural aspects. There is a wide range of opportunities in the field of engineering and architecture. While engineering has a variety of options from coding to mechanical engineering, architecture branches out to more design-based options ranging from landscape designing to urban designing. What matters is that architecture cannot exist without engineering and vice-versa!

References:

  • New School of Architecture and Design. (2022).Infographic: Architecture Vs Engineering. [Online]

Available from: https://newschoolarch.edu/academics/school-of-architecture-and-cm/infographic-architecture-vs-engineering/

(Accessed 9th September 2022)

  • Architecture. (2022, July 31). In Wikipedia. [Online].

Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture

(Accessed 9th September 2022)

  • Kimberly Hegeman. (14th December 2018). New building materials that could revolutionize construction. [Online].

Available from: https://www.forconstructionpros.com/

(Accessed 11th September 2022)

  • Christele Harrouk. (14th April 2021). What is architecture according to our readers [Online]

Available from: https://www.archdaily.com

(Accessed 9th September 2022)

  •  All About Architecture. (31st July 2018). What is Architecture? [Online]

Available from: https://medium.com/@AAA_Publication/

(Accessed 9th September 2022)

  • Peter Collins. (Last updated on 24th August 2022). Architecture. [Online]

Available from: https://www.britannica.com

(Accessed 9th September 2022)

Author

Adiya is an architecture student pursuing her studies in BMS College of Architecture, Bangalore. She believes that architecture can not only be expressed through form but through words too which help evoke certain emotions in the readers. Her passion for art and writing is what peaks her interest in the field of architectural journalism.

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